NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES TEAM FOR NASCAR TOYOTA ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN BLENDS EXPERIENCE, YOUTH AND MOTIVATION DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 3, 2006) -- Any football coach would appreciate the qualities that the...
NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION, BUSCH EAST SERIES TEAM FOR NASCAR TOYOTA
ALL-STAR SHOWDOWN BLENDS EXPERIENCE, YOUTH AND MOTIVATION
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 3, 2006) -- Any football coach would appreciate the qualities that the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series team will bring to the fourth annual NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, scheduled for Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway, October 20-21. There's a ton of experience balanced by a strong dash of youth, a track record of success from top to bottom, and an important intangible.
Every driver on the 15-man team is motivated to succeed in the spotlight of the biggest event of the year for the Grand National Division. For some, it's the desire to add an exclamation point to a winning season. Others look to put disappointment behind them with an upbeat finish to 2006. Still others seek to prove they belong in the company of the nation's best NASCAR regional racers. None of them, however, is just along for the ride.
As in previous editions of the Toyota All-Star Showdown, the Busch East Series and AutoZone West Series drivers will initially be scored as a "team" to determine which series has the better overall performance -- something the Busch East Series has accomplished in each of the past three seasons. The team, or series, that wins this race-within-a-race shares an additional $30,000 bonus. Here is an overview of the 15 Busch East Series drivers who have been invited to Irwindale to seek a fourth straight team championship in the Toyota All-Star Showdown.
1. Mike Olsen, North Haverhill, N.H., No. 61 Little Trees Chevrolet. Points: 1,823. Previous ranking: 1. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 3. Best Finish: 7th (2004) -- Olsen clinched his second series title in six years with two wins, nine top fives, and a clean slate of 11 top-10's. He completed every lap of every race. Along the way he won two Busch Poles and his first superspeedway race, at New Hampshire International Speedway in July. A champion is always motivated, but for Olsen there is a special reason to strive for excellence in the Toyota All-Star Showdown. Last year he took the checkered flag, did the TV interviews and the winners' photo session, only to be placed last in the official results after a rules infraction was discovered on his car during post-race inspection.. That disappointment drove him to his title this season, and it will surely motivate him again at Irwindale.
2. Sean Caisse, Pelham, N.H., No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet. Points: 1,699. Previous ranking: 2. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 1. Best finish: 4th (2005) -- Caisse gave Mike Olsen all he could handle in the Busch East Series title race until his accident at Dover (Del.) International Speedway crippled his chances with one race remaining. You can't argue with the numbers he put up driving for Andy Santerre- three wins, five Busch Poles, ten races led, and most laps led in five of them. At age 20, Caisse is destined for a step up to NASCAR's national series in the near future and a win at the Toyota All-Star Showdown, where he impressed as a rookie last year, would be a great audition.
3. Bryon Chew, Mattituck, N.Y., No. 99 Buzz Chew Chevrolet. Points: 1,656. Previous ranking: 3. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 3. Best finish: 4th (2003) -- Chew's 2006 campaign was a tremendous success, producing his best points finish and his first Busch East Series race win at Holland (N.Y.) International Speedway in June. He did it against a painful background, both psychological (his stepmother suffered disabling injuries in a snowmobile accident last winter) and physical (he drove through the effects of a leg injury from a midsummer boating accident). The inaugural Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2003 was one of the first signs of Chew's growing maturity as a racer and a win at Irwindale this year would bring that process full circle.
4. Brian Hoar, Williston, Vt., No. 45 Goss Dodge. Points: 1,656. Previous ranking: 4. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 2. Best finish: 8th (2004) -- Hoar qualified for his third straight Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2005 but did not make the trip to California because late-season problems left him without equipment he considered up to the task. Aside from the desire to make up for lost time from '05, Hoar is motivated by a 2006 season that was so close to success, but came up frustratingly short of his goals. He recorded eight top-five finishes but missed victory lane and lost third place in the final standings to Bryon Chew on a tiebreaker.
5. Matt Kobyluck, Uncasville, Conn., No. 40 Mohegan Sun Chevrolet. Points: 1,551. Previous ranking: 5. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 3. Best finish: 2nd (2004 & 2005) -- The 2006 Busch East Series season had a familiar story line for the big guy. He was a frontrunner everywhere but at New Hampshire International Speedway, where finishes of 35th and 40th were again the downfall of his title hopes. A Toyota All-Star Showdown victory could go a long way toward healing the wounds left by his NHIS failures, and he's been on the podium the last two years. Not only is his average Showdown finish (5.3) the best of any driver who has competed in all the first three races, but he knows the AutoZone West Series opposition after several trips to race on the West Coast during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
6. Joey McCarthy, Randolph, N.J., No. 3 STI Motorsports Chevrolet. Points: 1,458. Previous ranking: 7. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 3. Best finish: 3rd (2004) -- McCarthy must hear Chuck Berry singing "The Promised Land" whenever he sees Irwindale Speedway. He has three top-10's in the first three editions of the Toyota All-Star Showdown and his average finish (6.0) is only a fraction behind Matt Kobyluck's. If he can regain the consistency that marked the first half of the 2006 Busch East Series season he could provide more evidence that his 2003 performance- winning his qualifying race and leading the main event until the mid-race inversion- was no fluke.
7. Mike Johnson, Salisbury, Mass., No. 96 Johnson Lumber Ford. Points:1,437. Previous ranking: 6. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 3. Best finish: 1st (2004) -- Johnson's motivation is the easiest to see of any driver on the Busch East Series team. He hasn't won a race since the 2004 Toyota All-Star Showdown. There's been no lack of competitiveness from the Johnson Lumber team- Mike scored three top fives in 2006 and came within a few laps of winning at Holland,N.Y. But for a group that has been together since 2000 and built a five-year winning streak going into their Showdown-winning campaign, the winless streak needs to be stopped. There couldn't be a better place to do it.
8. Ruben Pardo, Mexico City, Mexico, No. 12 Movida/Family Dollar Dodge. Points: 1,390. Previous ranking:10. Toyota All-Star Showdoewn appearances: 0 -- There are two versions of "Big Mo"- momentum and motivation. Pardo and the FitzBradshaw team certainly have the former and will try to turn it into the latter. What was already a fine season with the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award and a top-10 points position turned into a great year in the season finale at Lime Rock Park where Pardo established a whole string of records- first Mexican driver to win in the series, first Dodge to win in the series, and first rookie to win since 2000, to name just a few. Moreover, it will be his closest NASCAR racing appearance to his native country.
9. Jeff Anton, Russell, Mass., No. 30 Engineered Floors Chevrolet. Points: 1,353. Previous ranking: 9. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 1. Best finish 16th (2005) -- Anton has followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Dale Quarterley, starting from a road racing background and becoming a highly competent short track racer. His motivation in the Toyota All-Star Showdown will be to take the next step, from running solidly to running up front; the sort of emergence that Bryon Chew exhibited in 2003. The starting format for the qualifying races, inverted by series point standings, should help him get off to a good start.
10. Charles Lewandoski, Stafford Springs, Conn., No. 01 Lewandoski Construction Chevrolet. Points: 1,319. Previous ranking: 8. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 0 -- "Chalew" needs a turnaround, a jump start to get him back to the form he showed early in the 2006 Busch East Series season. After opening with four straight top10's, he would record only one more for the balance of the campaign, finishing the season in unfamiliar equipment. His motivation is to recapture the chemistry that made him a contender at every race in June and July, with an eye toward big things in 2007.
11. Kip Stockwell, Braintree, Vt., No. 16 Sabil & Sons/Randolph National Bank Chevrolet. Points: 1,256. Previous ranking: 11. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 1. Best finish: 18th (2005) -- The Stockwell family team struggled to get to their first Toyota All-Star Showdown in 2005 and struggled again at the track, but Kip finally brought home a top-20 finish. The 2006 season has seen an upgrade of equipment and performance, with a career-best four top-10's. That raises the bar for the whole team that brings four generations to the track. Being there is no longer enough; they plan to race.
12. Dion Ciccarelli, Severn, Md., No. 84 Star Sales Ford. Points: 1,230. Previous ranking: 12. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 0. The Jamerson Motorsports team set out to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in 2006 but fell one position short. They accomplished much however, including their first top-10 race finish while proving the durability of the new NASCAR Grand National Division composite body. The Toyota All-Star Showdown provides a chance to showcase their small but highly professional team before a national audience.
13. John Freeman, Huntersville, N.C., No. 22 Bluegreen Resorts/Family Dollar Dodge. Points: 1,216. Previous ranking: 15th. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 0. - Freeman's late-season move to the FitzBradshaw team as Ruben Pardo's teammate produced an increase in competitiveness that didn't translate into race results until the finale at Lime Rock, where he placed seventh, equaling his best from earlier in the season with Barney McRae's equipment. A good run in the Toyota All-Star Showdown could propel the talented teenager up the NASCAR ladder for 2007.
14. John Salemi, Nashua, N.H., No. 15 Waste Management/BG Environmental Chevrolet. Points: 1,191. Previous ranking: 13. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 1. Best finish: 24th (2005) -- The Toyota All-Star Showdown is a welcome change of scenery for this team which encountered endless bad luck in 2006, climaxed when transmission failure ended a potential top-10 result at Lime Rock. The high point in the history of Mark Willoughby's team came in 2004 when Bobby Dragon finished fifth in the Toyota All-Star Showdown, while Salemi gave a good account in his debut last year with his own car before accident damage put him out of contention.
15. Tracy Gordon, Strong, Maine, No. 33 The Woodworks/Archer Corp. Ford. Points: 1,155. Previous ranking: 17th. Toyota All-Star Showdown appearances: 0- Gordon is a Toyota All-Star Showdown rookie just like Dick Trickle and Tony Stewart were rookies when they reached the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series- he's new to the event but brings a world of experience to the table. While racing very limited schedules from 2003 to 2005, Gordon still ranks among the top 10 in all-time Busch East Series race wins and Busch Poles. He finished second in the points race in 1999 and third in 2000, when he led the series in race wins. As for Fred Skaff's team, the Toyota All-Star Showdown is new but running at the front is not. This could be the darkhorse combination for the weekend.
The race: NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown
The drivers: Top 15 drivers from each of the two series in the NASCAR Grand National Division, including the Busch East Series and AutoZone West Series ... Top 10 drivers from each of the four series in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, including the Midwest Series, Northwest Series, Southeast Series and Southwest Series.
The place: Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway
The dates: Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21
Radio: NASCAR Radio on XM Satellite Radio (Channel 144)
Posted awards: $500,000
Track layout: Half-mile oval
2005 Grand National Division winner: David Gilliland
2005 Elite Division winner: Auggie Vidovich